Hint: The explanations should not be directed to the child but to their close environment.
Grandpa and Grandma spent a whole afternoon with your child, and now they are leaving. They expect a hug, but your child is uninterested, and you feel uncomfortable about it - does this situation sound familiar?
If so, you should keep reading. Zmira Kamchi, a facilitator and coach for parents and supportive communication, emphasizes that we shouldn't teach the child a lesson here, but rather educate their environment. When you explain to a toddler that their body belongs to them, and they decide who can touch it, it applies in every situation, even when they refuse to hug family members. The child doesn't know how to make the distinction.
What should you avoid doing?
If you pressure the child with statements like, "Come on, give Grandma a hug," it not only undermines the notion that the child decides about their body but may also create personal issues around the subject. Some children might feel that their refusal affects everyone and may even enjoy the attention it brings.
So what is recommended?
"Educate" the close environment. Explain to grandma and grandpa sensitively that they should respect and understand the child's feelings and support your approach. You can say in the presence of the child (or even ask them to say), sentences like "It's okay. when you feel like it, you'll come to hug Grandpa," "Grandma is always here for you whenever you want to hug," and so on. This way, the child learns that they can choose to come and hug when it feels right to them.
If grandma or grandpa got hurt by the child's refusal, you should explain to them that the child is not intentionally hurting them, but they don't have the understanding that their behavior is hurtful. Emphasize that if they allow the child to do it willingly, it will eventually happen.
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